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The Inkey List vs The Ordinary: Anti-Aging Skincare on a Budget

The Inkey List vs The Ordinary: Which is Better?

I recently tried several products from The Inkey List, a budget-friendly skincare line sold at Sephora here in the US. Impressed with the results, I decided to try similar products from another very popular budget skincare line, The Ordinary.

The Inkey List and The Ordinary Products on a Marble Tray

Both The Inkey List and The Ordinary are VERY AFFORDABLE (yes!). Both brands focus on single hero-ingredient products, which lend themselves to comparison. Since both brands offer many of the same hero-ingredient products, I decided to compare my experience with similar products from The Ordinary vs The Inkey List in this post.

JANUARY 2021 UPDATE: The Inkey List and The Ordinary continue to release new products, and I’ve continued to purchase more products from each brand. New for 2021 in this post is a comparison of niacinamide serums, vitamin C derivatives, and facial peels from The Inkey List and The Ordinary.

This post contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.

But first, a bit about the brands:

About The Ordinary

The Ordinary Anti-Aging Skincare Products

The Ordinary skincare brand’s tagline is “Clinical Formulations with Integrity”. They want to bring pricing and communication integrity to the forefront of the skincare industry. The Ordinary falls under the umbrella of brands from Deciem. Other higher-end skincare brands owned by Deciem include Niod and Hylamide, so The Ordinary enjoys the backing of an extensive family of skincare brands and their research.

The Ordinary was launched in 2017 and has become a go-to for low-priced, high-quality hero-ingredient skincare products. You can read more about my experience with The Ordinary in this review of The Ordinary skincare products.

The Ordinary Skincare Collection

Related Post: How to Build A Skincare Routine with The Ordinary Products


About The Inkey List

The Inkey List - Budget Skincare Comparison

The Inkey List aims to help you work through beauty jargon by delivering key active skincare ingredients at budget prices. They offer trendy and classic products in plain plastic packaging, which allows for their rock bottom prices. This keeps the focus on the product inside the packaging. The Inkey List uses their askINKEY platforms to help empower and educate their community.

$7.99 for a fantastic hyaluronic acid? Yes, please!! If you are wondering if The Inkey List is good, be sure to check out my The Inkey List review. I will summarize my thoughts on some of the best The Inkey List products from that post and how they compare to similar products from The Ordinary.

A Single Hero Ingredient

Both The Inkey List and The Ordinary are skincare lines with several products that focus on a single hero ingredient. So while these products are very inexpensive, please keep in mind that you will often need to use multiple single ingredient products to replace other products (often more expensive) that contain numerous active ingredients.

You’ll also need to learn about product formulations and how products should or shouldn’t be combined. Luckily, both brands have very helpful information on their websites on how to use their products. It’s great to see that both brands educate their customers about their formulations and the benefits of their ingredients. If you are wondering whether The Inkey List or The Ordinary has better skincare products, let’s look at the formula comparisons.

Lactic Acid

The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum vs The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum vs The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

Lactic acid is an all-star chemical exfoliator that sweeps away dead skin cells to reveal brighter, more radiant skin and improved skin texture. Lactic acid molecules are larger than other acids, such as glycolic acid, which means that lactic acid does not penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid. As a result, lactic acid may be an option for sensitive skin, as it is generally better tolerated than glycolic acid.

The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum

The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum contains 10% lactic acid and 1% low molecular hyaluronic acid. Low molecular hyaluronic acid has a lower weight, has smaller molecules, and can penetrate deeper into the skin than other varieties of hyaluronic acid. The serum also contains moisturizing glycerin and antioxidant Agastache Mexicana Flower/​Leaf/​Stem Extract.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA contains 10% lactic acid and sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer. This type of hyaluronic acid has a very high water-binding capacity allowing it to provide long-term moisture. The serum also contains Tasmanian Pepperberry to help reduce sensitivity and inflammation that can result from lactic acid use.

MY PICK: Both lactic acid serums exfoliate dead skin cells leading to brighter and smoother skin. I use lactic acid at night, so I always notice that my skin is more refined in the morning after using these products that work very similarly.

I believe both of these serums are an excellent value for their prices. Currently, The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum is $12.99 for 1 oz., and The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA is a stand-out at $6.80 for 1 oz. While the products and results are very similar for both brands, the price and packaging give The Ordinary the edge in the comparison between the two.

Vitamin C

The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream vs The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream vs The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

Vitamin C is a hero antioxidant that targets fines lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dullness, and loss of elasticity and firmness. It’s great for brightening the skin. I like to apply vitamin C products in the mornings since vitamin C targets free-radical damage that your skin is often exposed to during the daylight hours.


The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream

The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream contains 30% pure L-ascorbic acid and three silicones. It is a water-free, highly concentrated formula that may irritate sensitive skin.

I noticed some tingling and irritation immediately after applying it. The formula is somewhat grainy, and you need to be careful about layering it alongside other skincare ingredients because it may cause pilling. Instructions note that you can add a few drops of hyaluronic acid serum to the cream. This will thin the cream and provide added moisture.

While this product is for all skin types, combination and oily skin types may benefit most from it since it leaves a smooth matte finish on your face and almost acts like a primer for your makeup.


The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone also contains 30% pure L-ascorbic acid plus hyaluronic acid in a silicone base. This formula feels smooth on the skin, but due to the very high concentration of topical vitamin C in the form of a suspension of very fine L-ascorbic acid powder, this product may cause an intense tingling sensation until your skin’s tolerance is increased.

If your skin is sensitive to this product, The Ordinary notes that this formula may be mixed with other creams or serums prior to each application to dilute the potency.

The Ordinary offers 8 Vitamin C products, so I created this guide on vitamin C products from The Ordinary. The guide breaks down the benefits of each product and who they are best suited for. Have you tried and had success with any of The Ordinary’s other Vitamin C formulas? If so, let me know!

MY PICK: I didn’t really care for either product due to irritation, but I preferred The Inkey List Vitamin C Cream since it caused slightly less irritation than The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone. Continue reading for a comparison of less irritating vitamin C derivatives from The Inkey List and The Ordinary.

Retinol

The Inkey List Retinol Serum vs The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The Inkey List Retinol Serum vs The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The Inkey List retinol vs The Ordinary retinol – there are many different types of retinoids available on the market today. (Retinol is a type of retinoid.) Retinoids help fight fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and texture by neutralizing free radicals that break down collagen. Retinoids can also encourage new collagen production, so they are stand-out ingredients in an anti-aging skincare arsenal.

It’s important to note that retinoids may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so sunscreen is necessary when using these products and for a week afterward.

Related Post: A Drugstore Guide to Retinol

The Inkey List Retinol Serum

The Inkey List Retinol Serum is formulated with two different retinoids: 1% RetiStar stabilized Retinol and 0.5% Granactive Retinoid to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, which helps support collagen production and cellular renewal, and a granactive retinoid (ester of all-trans retinoic acid) are combined in a slow-release formula for maximum effect with minimum irritation.

RetiStar Stabilized Retinol is a retinol complex containing 0.05% retinol, tocopherol, sodium ascorbate, and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil in caprylic/capric triglycerides in an oily dispersion. So while you may think you are getting 1% retinol from this complex (which would be an extremely high amount of retinol), you are getting 0.05% of retinol plus 0.5% Granactive Retinoid in this serum.

The serum also contains squalane for moisture and hyaluronic acid for added hydration. Due to the low concentration of retinoids, this might be a good option for beginners. (This was the first retinol/retinoid that I used that did not irritate my skin.) My skin has improved clarity, and fine lines are diminished when I wake up in the morning after using this serum at night.

Related Post: The Best The Inkey List Products for Acne and Oily Skin

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The Ordinary produces six different kinds of retinol, and three of the six products contain a granactive retinoid. Their granactive retinoid is a complex of solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR). HPR is a retinoic acid ester delivered in a protective capsule system for improved delivery and effects. It binds directly with retinoid receptors without the need for further metabolic breakdown into a more active form.

This newer form of retinoid claims to cause less irritation than other retinoids/retinols while being just as effective.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion did not irritate my skin at all, which is very exciting considering I’ve had such a difficult time with retinoids in the past. Its liquid formula applies smoothly after water-based serums but before thicker serums and creams.

MY PICK: I found both The Inkey List and The Ordinary retinol/retinoid products very comparable. I am thrilled to say that neither product irritated my skin, and I woke up in the morning with smoother and brighter skin after using both products.

As I’ve continued to use these two retinoids, I reach for The Ordinary more often than The Inkey List. The liquid formula works well with other skincare products, and I have seen slightly more clarity and smoothing with The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion.

2021 RETINOID UPDATE: There are a lot of affordable retinoids on the market. You can’t go wrong with either retinoid, but the longer I use it, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion has become one of my favorite retinoids on the market.

Glycolic Acid

The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner vs The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner vs The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), exfoliates dead skin cells, helps to brighten the skin, refine the skin’s texture, and may particularly benefit oily complexions. Glycolic acid is a smaller molecule than other acids such as lactic acid, so glycolic acid travels deeper into the skin. As a result, some may experience irritation from glycolic acid.

These AHA products may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher when using these products and for a week afterward.


The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner

The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner contains 10% glycolic acid and 5% witch-hazel for oil control. This toner is formulated to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores and helps to improve skin texture and brightness.

After trying both of these glycolic acid products, I’ve determined that, unfortunately, I’m sensitive to glycolic acid. While I found this toner less irritating than The Ordinary, I did notice that my skin seemed more refined the morning after using this.


The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution contains 7% glycolic acid, amino acids, aloe vera, ginseng, and Tasmanian Pepperberry to help combat irritation. The pH of this product is approximately 3.6, which is nearly the same as the pKa (acid availability) of glycolic acid, which is 3.6. Having the same pH and pKa indicates a balance between acidity and salts. This allows for maximum efficacy with minimal irritation.

Unfortunately, this toner irritated my skin and reddened my face upon application, although I did notice that my skin was brighter and clearer in the morning after using this at night.

MY PICK: While both products irritated my skin, I preferred The Ordinary’s packaging and formula. The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner is 3.4 oz and $10.99, and The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution is 8 oz and $8.70. While I found the results comparable, the pricing, formula, and product size give the edge to The Ordinary.

Related Post: The Best The Ordinary Skincare Products for Oily & Acne-Prone Skin

Hyaluronic Acid

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid vs The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid vs The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Hyaluronic acid is a skin hydrating superstar, as it’s known to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Don’t let the word acid scare you away! This is a hero hydrator that can be combined with direct acids and skincare actives for maximum hydration.


The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum

I tried a few hyaluronic acids before trying The Inkey List’s, and they always left my skin sticky or tacky, and I was not impressed. The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum contains low and high molecular weight hyaluronic acid 2% for optimum penetration and hydration. It also contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide, which targets fine lines while plumping the skin and supporting collagen production.

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum is one of the best that I’ve tried. It dries quickly, works well with other products in my skincare routine, and really hydrates. The only drawback for me was the squeeze bottle. Sometimes the serum would drip down the side of the bottle. This is a minor issue, considering how much I love the product itself.


The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 contains low-, medium- and high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid and also includes a next-generation HA crosspolymer plus B5 for even more hydration. The glass bottle and dropper make for a better delivery system than The Inkey List. It also dries quickly and hydrates well. Precisely what it was designed to do.

MY PICK: While I like The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, The Inkey Lists Hyaluronic Acid Serum wins this one. It hydrates without being sticky or tacky, and as a bonus, it contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide that targets wrinkles and fine lines.

Related Post: The Best The Ordinary Products for Dry Skin

Alpha Arbutin

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum vs The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

The Inkey List and The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin Serums

The more I learn about alpha arbutin, the more I like this ingredient for brightening the skin and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and discoloration.

Originating in plant species such as bearberry, blueberry, and cranberry, arbutin blocks tyrosinase, the enzyme involved in melanin production. (Excess melanin leads to hyperpigmentation and dark spots.) Another plus is that arbutin can usually be used by those with sensitive skin since its active element is released slowly.

There are two kinds of arbutin: alpha and beta. Alpha arbutin is considered to be more effective (and more expensive) than beta arbutin. The following products from The Inkey List and The Ordinary contain alpha arbutin.

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum contains alpha arbutin at 2% plus hyaluronic acid, squalane at 0.5%, glycerin, and phospholipids, all ingredients that supply moisture to the skin. The last ingredient (a small amount) in the formula is tetrapeptide-30. This peptide protects the skin barrier and can help fade hyperpigmentation.

The serum comes in a tube and has a lightweight opaque gel texture. After application, it takes a bit of time to dry, but it does not interfere with other skincare and makeup products.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA contains 2% alpha arbutin and hydrolyzed sodium hyaluronate, a next-generation form of hyaluronic acid. It penetrates the skin deeply for intense hydration.

The pH of the formula is approximately 4.9. This is an ideal pH to minimize the degradation of the serum in the presence of water.

The formula comes in a bottle with a dropper. It has the consistency of a clear runny gel. Like The Inkey List, it takes some time to dry. It does not interfere with the application of other skincare products or makeup.

MY PICK: I find that The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin Serum is slightly more hydrating. Otherwise, both products behave very similarly. You can use both products in the AM and PM.

I have yet to see a noticeable change in my skin, but I will continue to use these products as a preventative measure. They will work on current hyperpigmentation and dark spots and also prevent new dark spots from forming.

Due to the extra hydrating ingredients in The Inkey List formula and the smooth gel texture, I prefer it slightly to The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA.

Related Post: The Best The Ordinary Products for Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots, The Best The Inkey List Products for Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots

Rosehip Oil

The Inkey List Rosehip Oil vs The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

The Inkey List and The Ordinary Rosehip Oil

Pressed from wild rosehip fruit seeds, rosehip oil not only moisturizes your skin but does so much more. A supreme multitasker, it also works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and has antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. You can use rosehip oil up to twice a day, and it benefits all skin types.

Rosehip oil contains essential fatty acids to support collagen formation and skin elasticity. It is also rich in vitamin C that works as a free-radical fighter in addition to brightening the skin and fighting hyperpigmentation.

Rosehip oil is rich in vitamin A, so please keep this in mind if using it with retinoids since retinoids are vitamin A derivatives and can be harsh on the skin.

The Inkey List Rosehip Oil

The Inkey List Rosehip Oil contains 100% pure rosehip oil rich in omega-6 fatty acids. An Allure magazine Best of Beauty award winner, this oil is light yet nourishing.

Perfect for dull, uneven skin, this rosehip oil brightens with its antioxidant properties. You’ll only need a few drops as the last step in your skincare routine. You can also mix a drop or two into your moisturizer or foundation for a beautiful glow.

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil is sustainably sourced, organic, cold-pressed rosehip seed oil. Rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and pro-vitamin A, the oil has a natural scent due to the high omega fatty acid content.

Even though packaged in glass, The Ordinary’s rosehip oil comes in UV-protective packaging. Only a drop or two is needed of this rich but light oil. Like The Inkey List, it is best used as the last step of your skincare routine and can be mixed in with your foundation or moisturizer.

MY PICK: I’ve been using each oil on one side of my face and have found them very similar. They work really well for my skin during cold-weather months. Using these oils as the last step in my skincare routine seals in the water-based products underneath.

The Ordinary is easier to administer with the dropper that comes with the glass bottle, while The Inkey List’s plastic bottle has a flip cap that does a surprisingly good job of controlling the oil flowing from it. Still, I like The Ordinary’s packaging better.

The Ordinary Rosehip has a slightly lighter feel on my skin. Since I usually don’t love my skin feeling oily, I tend to reach for The Ordinary more often.

Squalane

The Inkey List Squalane vs The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

The Inkey List and The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin Serums

Squalane is a skincare ingredient that has been getting quite a bit of buzz recently due to the many benefits for the skin. Squalene (with an “e”) is naturally present in the skin’s barrier and prevents moisture loss but declines as we age. Squalene is unstable when exposed to oxygen, so for skincare products, hydrogen is added to squalene to form a saturated and stable oil: squalane.

Plant-derived squalane does so much more than just moisturize the skin. It is non-comedogenic, an emollient, and supports the skin’s natural moisture barrier, preventing transepidermal water loss. Squalane is non-irritating and helps regulate oil production, making it ideal for all skin types, including sensitive and oily skin.

The Inkey List Squalane

The Inkey List Squalane is 100% plant-derived and contains 100% squalane. This lightweight oil not only moisturizes but also soothes the skin. You only need a drop or two to cover your entire face.

I use this at night, and I think it helps when using retinol and other potentially irritating products. For those that like a glow, you can give it a try during the day or add a drop or two to your foundation.

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is also 100% plant-derived as the title indicates and, like The Inkey List, contains only plant-derived squalane. This is an even lighter feeling squalane oil that sinks in quickly and is a real-deal multitasker. I use it as the last step of my skincare routine, but I think both oils are light enough to use under a moisturizer.

NOTE: The Ordinary also has a gentle and hydrating Squalane Cleanser, ideal for dry skin.

MY PICK: I found a new favorite ingredient: SQUALANE! I can’t get over how light yet hydrating and plumping squalane oil is. It really is ruining other oils for me because it feels so weightless on my skin. Both of these squalane oils are very light, which stood out to me during testing. The packaging of the products is the most significant difference that I noticed.

The Ordinary comes in a glass bottle with a dropper. The Inkey List comes in a plastic tube with a disc cap. Using the tube with a disc cap could be very messy. You don’t want to waste the oil and have it run down the side of the tube. But the disc cap has two opening levels that control the flow of oil.

I slightly preferred The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane over The Inkey List Squalane due to the more elegant packaging and lighter feel. I’ll continue to use both oils in my skincare routine.

Niacinamide

The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum vs The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum and The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is a multi-benefit all-star skincare ingredient that is helpful for many skin conditions. This ingredient is known for its brightening properties and anti-aging benefits, such as reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots.

Niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce the skin’s oil production, so it can be helpful for those with oily skin and acne. It also helps to repair free radical damage and protect the skin barrier.

The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum

The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum contains 10% niacinamide to reduce excess oil, blemishes, and redness. This serum is also formulated with 1% multi-molecular hyaluronic acid for hydration and to plump the skin. Glycerin hydrates, squalane moisturizes, and Pro-Vitamin B5 (panthenol) is an anti-inflammatory.

This lightweight serum sinks in quickly and does not irritate my skin. It does not interfere with other skincare products or makeup. I enjoy the added hydration from hyaluronic acid. I apply this when my skin is dry and irritated after retinoid use, and it helps to calm my skin and minimize irritation.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is formulated to reduce the look of skin blemishes and congestion in the skin. It contains a 10% concentration of niacinamide plus zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid at 1%, which helps to balance the visible aspects of sebum activity occurring in the sebaceous glands.

The Ordinary is quick to note that this serum is not meant to be an acne treatment. The Ordinary recommends Benzoyl Peroxide and/or Retinoic Acid for persistent acne concerns, while Salicylic Acid would help with the temporary (not long term) improvement of the appearance of blemishes. You may use this niacinamide formula alongside acne treatments for additional skin benefits.

This comparison is the perfect example of how everyone’s skin is unique, and what works (or doesn’t work) for me may not work (or work) for you. Unfortunately, an ingredient in The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% irritates my skin. I’ve used this product several times, and every time my skin becomes itchy and irritated. I want to love this product because it is a best seller for The Ordinary, but it just didn’t work out for me.

MY PICK: Both niacinamide serums are effective at controlling oil and minimizing the appearance of blemishes. You can’t beat the price of The Ordinary Niacinamide at Ulta for only $5.90. The Inkey List Niacinamide Serum is my pick since it causes no irritation and feels more hydrating than The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.

Vitamin C Derivatives

The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum vs The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%

The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum vs The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%

The Ordinary has a catalog of 8 vitamin C products, some pure L-ascorbic acid, and some derivatives of L-ascorbic acid. The Inkey List has one pure L-ascorbic acid product and one vitamin C derivative containing Ascorbyl Glucoside. So for this comparison, I will take a look at each brand’s product that contains Ascorbyl Glucoside, an L-ascorbic acid derivative.

The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum

The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum is formulated with 15% Ascorbyl Glucoside, a vitamin C derivative. Ascorbyl Glucoside converts to pure vitamin C in the skin, so it is less potent than pure vitamin C. It also contains 1% Epitensive, a plant-derived Epidermal Growth Factor system. It contains a protein that promotes cellular regeneration, collagen production, and skin elasticity.

This product is formulated to brighten dull and stressed-out skin. It is a lightweight gel formula that produces zero irritation on my skin. It dries quickly with very little tackiness. Makeup applies easily after using this serum.

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%

While pure vitamin C/L-ascorbic acid is unstable in water, The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%, a vitamin C derivative, is water-soluble. Although this derivative is more stable than pure vitamin C, it is less effective than L-ascorbic acid since it must be converted to L-ascorbic acid in the skin. With that being said, this product still has skin brightening benefits and other benefits of the antioxidant power of pure vitamin C.

A noticeable benefit of this product is its comfortable wear. The serum absorbs very quickly without any stickiness or greasy feeling that may come along with other vitamin C derivatives from The Ordinary. I’ve experienced no sensitivity or stinging from this product. It works well with makeup, too.

MY PICK: Both products have a comfortable skin feel and wear well with makeup. If you compare these products based on the formulas, The Inkey List slightly edges out The Ordinary. The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum contains 3% more Ascorbyl Glucoside and has bonus anti-aging ingredients in the form of Epidermal Growth Factor.

Acid Facial Peels

The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel vs The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel and The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Both acid facial peels from The Inkey List and The Ordinary contain a potent amount of direct acids to unclog pores, improve skin texture and help improve the appearance of blemishes and congestion.

The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel

The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel is a powerful exfoliating facial peel that contains 10% glycolic acid. This alpha hydroxy acid gets deep into pores to sweep away dead skin cells. It also contains a 5% multi-fruit acid blend for additional exfoliation and to smooth the skin.

A 2% concentration of Apple Cider Vinegar contains acetic acid to reduce blemish-causing bacteria and citric, lactic, and succinic acids to support an even skin tone. The peel also contains Willow Bark Extract, a natural salicylate, similar to salicylic acid, which has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.

This rinse-off 10-minute peel smells just like apple cider vinegar. I have somewhat sensitive skin, and I could only tolerate a very thin layer, as glycolic acid is a little too strong for my skin.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is a 10-minute exfoliating facial only for advanced users of acid exfoliation. This peel contains 30% alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) in the form of glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids, plus 2% beta hydroxy acid (BHA) in the form of salicylic acid.

This peel also contains hyaluronic acid cross polymer for extended hydration. Vitamin B5 helps heal the skin, while black carrot provides antioxidant properties. A Tasmanian pepperberry derivate helps to reduce irritation that is associated with exfoliating acids.

This high combination of AHAs is included in this formula to exfoliate dead skin cells in the outermost layer of skin cells to even skin tone and to brighten the appearance of your complexion. Salicylic acid exfoliates and helps to clear pore congestion, which is ideal for oily complexions.

Due to the high concentration of free acids, The Ordinary warns that this peel should not be used on sensitive, peeling, or compromised skin and recommends that it be used only by experienced users of acid exfoliation.

The first thing that jumps out at you regarding this treatment is the color. It is a blood-red shade that looks very odd when applied to your skin. It is a VERY strong treatment, and while effective, I think others out there provide similar results without such high chances for irritation. I’ve used this a few times, and it’s just too strong for my skin.

MY PICK: I am not a huge fan of The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution due to my skin type, which is somewhat sensitive. The Inkey List Apple Cider Vinegar Acid Peel has a lower concentration of acids but provided similar results as The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution for my skin, so for this comparison, The Inkey List gets my vote.

Caffeine Eye Treatments

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream vs The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream vs The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream is formulated to reduce the appearance of puffiness and dark circles. Caffeine works as a diuretic that helps to relieve water retention, a contributing factor to under-eye puffiness. This eye cream also contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide. Matrixyl 3000 combines Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 with Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

This caffeine eye cream is lightweight yet has a creamy feel. It provides the perfect canvas for eye makeup such as concealer. It’s not the slightest bit sticky or greasy and feels silky and hydrating thanks to the addition of squalane for extra moisture.

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is a gel formula that contains a high 5% concentration of caffeine and highly-purified Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside (EGCG) from green tea leaves. EGCG provides protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Caffeine and EGCG have been shown to reduce the look of puffiness and dark circles in the eye contour.

This is a gel-like serum. It doesn’t seem to provide the moisturizing effect of a typical eye cream, so when I use this, I often need to later another eye cream on top for additional moisture under my eyes.

NOTE: The Ordinary clearly states that there are some situations where this serum won’t help with dark circles, like if you have hollowness in the eye contour due to sub-dermal tissue structure (i.e., fat or bone), or fat deposits that can cause permanent puffiness.

MY PICK: I have thin skin and fat loss under my eyes, so I wasn’t expecting either product to tackle my dark circles, but it did seem like The Ordinary’s serum had a tightening effect and helped a little with puffiness. Yet, The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG’s serum texture left my eye area a bit dry and in need of additional moisture.

Since neither product could make a noticeable improvement in my dark circles, it came down to other anti-aging benefits. In addition to caffeine, The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream also contains Matrixyl 3000 peptide to combat pesky fine lines. It feels silky and hydrating, plus it provides an excellent base for makeup without needing to layer an additional product for more moisture. Between the two eye products, I reach for The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream more often.

Related Post: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution Review

Anti-Aging Skincare: The Inkey List vs The Ordinary Products on Tray

Final Thoughts on The Inkey List vs The Ordinary

I really like these straightforward hero-ingredient products and their budget-friendly prices. I found that The Ordinary was more transparent with their ingredients and formulations, and I preferred their packaging by a mile.

The Inkey List has some great product formulations as well, and overall, I think The Inkey List’s products are more elegant in texture and skin feel. For this reason, I reach for The Inkey List products slightly more often than The Ordinary products.

Mix and Match

Ultimately, both brands complement each other. The Inkey List has four cleansers, while The Ordinary only has one. The Ordinary has six retinoids and eight vitamin C products, while The Inkey List has one retinoid and two vitamin C-focused products. I mix and match their products based on my skin’s needs.

My Picks

You can try many of The Inkey List and The Ordinary products for the price of one expensive luxury brand product and often get better results than the high-end product. I expect we will see more of these lower-priced no-frills brands soon if the success of The Inkey List and The Ordinary is any indication. Yay for low-cost, high-quality anti-aging skincare!!

Laura

Tuesday 10th of August 2021

I have a question, when I use vitamin C in the morning or retinol at night, I spray some water after the application for mix it/blend it better. Is it okay or am I reducing the effectiveness? For example, oxidizing the vitamin C idk.

Thank you very much, this post was so usefull :)

Sarah

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Thanks so much for reaching out! The Inkey List advises not to spray with water after application. Instead, it can be beneficial to apply Hyaluronic Acid before your products if you are finding application difficult. Thanks!

Andrea

Monday 26th of July 2021

Wow amazing reviews. Thank you very much for your work!

Sarah

Monday 26th of July 2021

Thanks for your kind words!!

Sabika

Friday 23rd of April 2021

Hi!can u let me know whose vitamin C product will suit an oily acne prone skin?will be the ordinary one be better or the inkey list one?

Sarah

Friday 23rd of April 2021

It may be a few extra steps due to the mixing required, but I think The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder is a good choice because you can control the amount that you use and you decide the texture based on the product that you mix it with. You must mix the powder with other treatments (except peptides, niacinamide or EUK 134, or other strong actives like acids or retinoids). I like mixing The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder with The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid since it is a water-based serum. The powder easily dissolves in the hyaluronic acid serum, which is lightweight and non-greasy. (The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone, and The Inkey List Vitamin C 30% are all heavier in texture.) Thanks!

Stephanie

Wednesday 17th of February 2021

How about the Matrixyl vs the collagen booster? They also both have HA in them, I think.

Sarah

Thursday 18th of February 2021

The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA contains two generations of Matrixyl, Matrixyl 3000, and Matrixyl synthe'6 at a combined concentration of 10%, plus sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid) while The Inkey List Collagen Booster contains Matrixyl 3000 (at the bottom of the ingredient list, so I'm guessing only a small amount), Syn-Tacks (a dual peptide), plus hyaluronic acid. So each product has its own peptide mix and similar forms of hyaluronic acid.

Kolby

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Hello,

While I found this review to be quite helpfulness not only comparing the products but describing each usage, I would really like to see another post as to how to build a routine for these products, or even which age range these products are most beneficial towards. Thank you ☺️

Kind Regards & clear skin to you!

Sarah

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

You'll find some example routines with The Ordinary products in this post: How to Build a Skincare Routine with The Ordinary Products. Thanks!